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Published: June 21st 2009
(Day 435 on the road)
After our wonderful time in the lush jungle of the Kelabit Highlands, it was time for - some more jungle! To that end we made our way to the grand Mulu National Park. As with Bario, the park is only sensibly accessible by plane, so we had to take another two flights across the massive Borneo rainforest (one Twin Otter 21 seater, one Fokker 50) to reach there.
Our plan of action was simple: Spend a few days in the park exploring the massive limestone caves, then hike up a steep mountain to see the pinnacles, and then trek and boat across the jungle almost all the way into Brunei on the northeastern border of the park.
The first part of this plan was easy enough: A few of the most beautiful caves are located close to the National Park's headquarters and are thus easily accessible. I was especially fascinated by the Clearwater Cave, which gets its name from a crystal clear river that runs right through it. There is the possibility to do a fair bit of adventure caving here to explore some less accessible caves, but unfortunately I could not find a guide
to take me there. It was also not possible to go to the famous Sarawak Chamber, the biggest cave chamber in the world, as that involved a five day underground voyage to reach it. Shame.
Next on our agenda was a climb up to the Pinnacles, after Mount Kinabalu the most climbed mountain in Borneo. And for good reasons too - the view form the top was just fascinating. The existence of the caves here is due to the huge limestone mountains, and the pinnacle-formation is also due to the erosion of the limestone over the last few million years. They are essentially the remains of a mountain that has been washed away by the rain over the course of time. So today all that is left of the former mountains are the huge, razor-sharp pinnacles, which make for a spectacular sight after the fairly tough three-hour climb up the steep mountain, in parts using ladders and ropes at some of the more difficult passages.
After that we were ready to hit the trail. We had chosen to do a two-day trek called the Headhunter's Trail, which has been used for generations by the infamous Headhunters
These days however, it is a tame and easy walk across the jungle. This also enabled us to reach Brunei, our next destination, without backtracking by flying out of the park again.
The trek itself was a wonderful combination of going through the jungle by longboat and on foot. As the river levels were low it also involved a considerable amount of pushing our longboat up the shallow waters (all people out of the boat, push for 2 minutes, back into the boat, ride for 5 minutes, back out of the boat and so on - it was quite an experience). We spent the night at a traditional wooden Tabun longhouse, where we stayed with the village chief.
The next morning we made our way into Brunei with a combination of first an early morning boat ride and then some incredibly easy hitch-hiking (we waited less than five minutes for a car to stop and offer us a lift) across the Malaysia-Brunei border.
However, not all is well in the Borneo jungle. Apart from the devastating logging there is also a huge amount of rubbish floating down the beautiful river, especially after passing a settlement on the shore. Instead of burning or burying their rubbish, the people just throw it all into the river to be carried downstream. Out of sight, out of mind. The effect of course is that the rubbish (plastic bottles and bags, soda cans and much more) either floats down the entire river until it reaches the sea, or it gets tangled in tress or bushes by the river shore. Great. Very considerate.
Next stop: Bandar Seri Begawan (Borneo, Brunei Darussalam).
To view my photos, have a look at pictures.beiske.com
. And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon
(and most other online book shops).
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